Should’ve worn a dental dam

Yesterday, the Sweet ’16ers learned how to keep sex sexy with Consent 101. Below, NSOP 2012 attendee Alexander Pines takes a look at what that program consisted of, how it was received, and whether Health Services might take things a little more seriously.

For the last major mandatory event of NSOP, “Mapping Your First Year with Health Services,” students filed after their OLs into Lerner and the Diana in an aborted attempt to foster Columbia/Barnard unity. This was thwarted by the makeup of the workshop sessions, however, as they were either all-Columbia or all-Barnard with little to no intermingling between groups. The event was split into two sessions, a Consent 101 workshop and a play called “With a Little Help From My Friends.”

Under the assumption that all workshop sessions were generally the same, the tone was forcibly upbeat, which met with the proverbial crickets from the participants. While the workshop leaders made every effort and pulled out every corny joke in the book to lighten the mood, it was clear that the class of 2016 doesn’t find rape particularly chuckle-worthy. Much of the workshop focused on the idea of what is and isn’t consent, consisting largely of role-playing scenes between the two leaders which emulated daily instances in which mutual and enthusiastic consent can be expressed.

While this effort to relate the idea of consent (typically reserved for between the sheets) to everyday interactions (such as asking to sit next to someone in Butler) was well-intentioned, it ultimately trivialized the importance of consent in situations more serious than interviewing potential tablemates. Before the session’s conclusion, students were asked to think up creative ways of asking for consent; some particularly charming examples follow:
  • “Your dress would look really nice crumpled up on my floor.”
  • “May I lie tangent to your curves?”
  • “Want to play with my pussycat?”
  • “Can I insert my genitalia into your genitalia?”
  • “Do you wanna take a ride on my disco stick?”
  • “Suck me, beautiful.”

Lady Gaga and American Pie references aside, the session did attempt to communicate several worthwhile ideas and guidelines for students, such as the need for mutual consent without coercion and an awareness of the practice of victim-blaming, but it was very much catered toward students participating in heterosexual relationships and hook-ups, largely neglecting issues pertinent to Columbia’s LGBTQ+ community.

At the end of the Consent 101 session 2016-ers were handed a small plastic case containing two condoms. Several shyly opened them and examined the packaging carefully before tucking them into their bags, although one student requested a trade because “orange and green are just the least sexy condom colors.” Another cracked hers open, laughed, and asked if Columbia provides dental dams.

Once Consent 101 was finished, students were herded into Roone for “A Little Help From My Friends.” The play, or rather, glorified infomercial, advertised organizations for Columbians seeking help with various issues, from masturbating roommates to creepy pickup lines; the writers took care to pack as many corny puns and half baked jokes as possible in between snippets of conspicuously relevant information. Despite its enthusiastic billing in the NSOP schedule, the play largely avoided the topic of sex, except for a few tired jokes about collegiate lesbian experimentation; the performance served primarily to promote Go Ask Alice! and Columbia Counseling and Psychological Services. The narrative was vaguely interesting and set incongruously to a background of music from the Fight Club soundtrack, giving otherwise dull scenes (mostly consisting of staged phone calls about roommate issues) a fun, David Fincher-esque sense of suspense—would the sloppy roommate be dealt with via roundhouse kick? The audience laughed several times throughout, though it is unclear whether they laughed with or at the play.

By the end of the event, however, not all students were entirely clear about the meaning of consent (or lack thereof). One group reportedly decided that it isn’t rape if nonconsensual sex occurs between a married couple. This kind of dialogue further evidences the necessity of groups like the Men’s Peer Education Program and events such as this, despite its flaws and shortcomings.

Students seeking support after an incident of sexual violence should go to the Rape Crisis/Anti-Violence Support Center in 112 Hewitt Hall or contact Student Services for Gender-Based and Sexual Misconduct online or by phone.

Fully consentsual dental procedure via WikiMedia Commons